Mother of Youth in Alleged Racial Incident Drafts Petition Response
• Reporting of Hate Crimes and End to Ed Gap Urged
BY KAYLA BROWN
A public petition drive is currently underway that addresses the notion that an insensitive racial environment prevails within the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District.
An alleged "racially tinged" incident that occurred at Santa Monica High School in May has put the school's diversity climate in the spotlight.
Word circulated that an African-American male student was reportedly physically attacked by his wrestling teammates, then chained to his locker and verbally abused.
Although district personnel were notified about the event, the victim's mother, Victoria Gray, was never informed.
Gray has voiced her concerns about the SMMUSD at board meetings and other venues and followed this up by drafting what she calls the "Stand Up for Racial Justice in Santa Monica-Malibu Schools" petition to put the issue in the public spotlight.
"Recent school-based racial incidents demonstrate that our children's school climate is not safe," states Gray in her online petition.
In response to the incident, the Board of Education and SMMUSD designated new initiatives, particularly for district staff, to "support the student(s) who were adversely affected by [the] incident, minimize the chances that similar incidents occur in the future, and ensure that such incidents are dealt with appropriately and correctly if they do occur."
Gray is not just focusing on racial justice; she also wants to draw attention to educational equality as well. She said, "Recent test scores demonstrate that not only has there been no progress closing the racial academic achievement gap, the gap has widened."
Gray indicates that the aim of the petition is to highlight "making safety and education equity for all students a top priority" in SMMUSD schools. She said this can be accomplished by "raising awareness about these injustices, [and] promoting anti-bias training for teachers, administrators, staff, volunteers, and students."
Gray also advocates "Implementing mandatory reporting protocols for all hate-motivated incidents, [and] bringing a proven program for addressing the achievement gap to our schools."
The petition currently has 491 signatures out of its goal of at least 500 signers. Petition signer Emi Hino comments, "Every student should be in a safe, affirming environment. Programs that can improve the school environment are much needed."
Although individual district personnel have been cleared of criminal misconduct charges, SMMUSD has proclaimed an ongoing investigation of the incident. The standing policies and procedures with regard to racial insensitivity will be examined and assessed.
In addition to a protocol investigation, Gray is petitioning for recognition of the necessity of bringing a "proven program" to SMMUSD schools during the 2011-2012 year in order to "significantly improve school climate and increase the academic success of students of color."
More information on the "Stand Up for Racial Justice in Santa Monica-Malibu Schools" petition and the procedure for signing it online is available at: http://www.signon.org/sign/stand-up-for-racial-justice-1?source.